Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi on Tuesday asked the Centre why it had not included any member of minority communities and Dalits to an expert panel constituted by the government to study the origin and evolution of Indian culture. “Shouldn’t minorities and Dalits talk about Indian culture?” she tweeted. “Or are they ineligible?” The panel does not comprise any women either.

On Monday, Union minister Prahlad Patel had informed Parliament in a written reply that a 16-member committee was looking into the origin and evolution of Indian culture dating back to around 12,000 years, according to PTI. Prahlad said the panel would also explore its “interface with the cultures of the world”.

The panel’s members include archaeologists KN Dikshit, BR Mani and RS Bisht, and retired judge Mukundakam Sharma. Sharma was also the chairperson of the government’s committee to review sports governance code, according to The Economic Times. The panel does not include any woman.

Besides this, six other members on the panel are professors or academics who specialise in the study of Sanskrit language, and are mostly from Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and Lal Bahadur Shastri Sanskrit University. The panel also includes Makkhan Lal, a controversial historian who was at the forefront of attempts to saffronise history textbooks in the early 2000s and is linked to a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated think-tank.

Several other citizens also criticised the government for not including representatives from South India, the North East, women researchers and experts from other minority communities on the panel.

Acclaimed singer TM Krishna said the committee was proof of the Centre’s “bigoted, casteist, patriarchal nature”. “Culture is where the most damage is being done,” he added. “We are ignoring it at our own peril.”

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